Ghosts of the Balkan wars are returning in unlikely places

Why is the Christchurch far-right terrorist obsessed with the crazy-haired Serb that the UN just sentenced to life in prison? How Balkan war criminals became idols to Western extremists is a bizarre story that shouldn’t be real, but is.

Twenty years ago this week, NATO decided to take Kosovo away from Serbia. The Rambouillet Agreement of March 18, 1999, named for the château outside Paris where negotiations failed to resolve that Balkan crisis without wider war, set the stage for an independent Kosovo under NATO administration and protection.

Five days after US, British, and Albanian delegations signed the Rambouillet Agreement – Serbian and Russian delegations refused to sign – NATO bombs started to fall on Serbia, and they kept falling for 78 days. The Kosovo War was a nearly bloodless affair for the Atlantic Alliance but not for the Serbs and Albanians.

NATO’s victory over Belgrade, achieved by airpower alone, made the Pentagon and associated think-tanks giddy. At last the age of truly high-technology war had arrived, rendering slogging it out in the mud with ground troops unnecessary. They forgot that NATO’s infantry in Kosovo was supplied by the tenacious Kosovo Liberation Army, determined to liberate their homeland from Serbian misrule. As a result, the US military invaded Iraq in 2003 carrying rucksacks filled with Balkan illusions about the magical power of technology in war and how easy foreign occupation can be when the locals sincerely greet you as liberators.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

Wokeness eats the Virginia Democrats

If there’s one word which symbolizes American progressivism in 2019 it’s wokeness. Asking what it means constitutes proof that one is not woke. Although wokeness can best be viewed as the pop-cult wing of the late-Marxist heresy called intersectionality by academics, it’s really more a cultivated posture than a coherent political program.

The challenge with wokeness is its fluidity. Its arbiters exist mainly on social media as an unelected Politburo of sorts, and their edicts can change without formal notice. What was sufficiently woke yesterday may not be deemed so today, with real-world costs for those eager to stay on the vaunted right side of history.

For politicians the hazards are real, as Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Democratic governor, discovered last week. No national figure until a few days ago, Northam burst to stardom on Wednesday when he gave an interview in which he discussed a bill before the Virginia legislature which proposes to ease access to third-trimester abortions. A pediatric neurologist by trade, Northam’s comments were a tad too clinical for some, and controversy ensued. While the Woke Brigade hailed Northam as a hero, many on the Right believed the governor had endorsed infanticide.

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

In Moscow, There’s No Longer Any Line Between Spies, Lies & Terrorists

These days there’s no term more likely to attract the nut fringe than “false flag.” Citing it is a surefire way to rally online monomaniacs who believe that nothing in the world is as it seems to be. The belief that nefarious secret forces pull the strings behind events is for some as addictive as opioids.

This is unfortunate, since false flag is a perfectly legitimate term in the espionage world, and it’s far from new. Spies have masqueraded as someone else during their secret operations for as long as there have been spies. In extreme cases, intelligence services have undertaken terrorist attacks under a false flag to smear opponents and fool the public. Such cases, while rare, do occur.

They still happen today. A fair amount of the time, these incidents involve Russians, since the Kremlin perfected this dark art over a century ago, when professional provocateurs ran the tsar’s terrorism problem bloodily into the ground. A recent case of false flag terrorism illustrates that not much has changed in the last 120 years.

On February 4, 2018, unidentified assailants fire-bombed a Hungarian cultural center in Uzhhorod, the capital of Ukraine’s westernmost region. There were no casualties, but the attack raised worries among the 100,000 Hungarians who live around Uzhhorod, on the border with Hungary, their ancestral homeland. The status of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority has become a hot-button issue between Kiev and Budapest, and the terrorist incident made the touchy situation worse.

Read the rest at The Observer …

In 2018 America, everybody you don’t like is ‘extremist’

It has become a totem of liberal faith in the Trump era that America is crawling with secret brigades of far-right extremists who are ready at a moment’s notice to emerge from their mothers’ basements to commit murder and mayhem. Rancid social media posts and individual acts of horror are imagined to constitute an underground Nazi army.

The evidence for this viewpoint can be charitably termed thin. Certainly, far-right extremists and even terrorists are out there, but they’re nothing new, and a plausible case can be made that America’s problem with the violent kook-right is less grave now than it was a generation ago, when bona fide neo-Nazis were on the murderous loose.

This is off-message, however, and bien-pensants eagerly take any far-right activity as proof of a security threat at the level of roughly the Islamic State. Hence, we get mainstream media pontifications about the alleged deadliness of white males, who are portrayed as a greater threat to public safety than jihadists. That no actual terrorism experts think this is irrelevant, while serious academic studies revealing the true state of domestic terrorism in the West are ignored by the media.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

The Hidden Russian Hand Behind Germany’s Violent Right-Wing Riots

This week, Germany has been convulsed with rioting in the eastern city of Chemnitz, where right-wing protesters have clashed with police for days. The murder of a German man on Sunday, reportedly by two Middle Eastern migrants, birthed angry protests that have devolved into violence, with attacks on foreigners by right-wing mobs. The police have been unable to quash the street melee, leading to troubling questions for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, whose open door to migrants three summers ago set the stage for political turmoil in the European Union’s predominant country.

Angry right wingers flashing the banned Hitler salute for the cameras rattled Germany’s chattering class, which seems mystified by anger at Merkel and her policies. However, it’s no surprise that this unpleasantness exploded in Saxony, the German state where the renascent far right has the deepest roots. Chemnitz, called Karl-Marx-Stadt when this was East Germany, like much of Saxony, has proved an ideal breeding ground for hardline nationalism and nativism, thanks to socio-economic stagnation. Chancellor Merkel’s harsh criticism of the rioters is unlikely to change many minds in Chemnitz, where dislike of the current government runs deep.

Right-wing hooligans from across Germany descended on Chemnitz to partake in the violent protests, and although the police have made progress in regaining the streets, the city remains in turmoil today. Tensions over migrants that have roiled German politics for the last three years, nearly causing the collapse of Merkel’s fragile coalition, have now exploded in open violence. Like the recent murder of a Jewish girl by a migrant, the Chemnitz fracas raises awkward questions about the true state of German politics and society.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Why Is Trump Trying to Start a War He Cannot Win?

I’ve been a hardliner regarding Iran my whole professional life. During my time in the Intelligence Community, I favored aggressive approaches to countering Tehran’s misdeeds abroad. What I witnessed in the Balkans in the 1990s convinced me that revolutionary Iran is a bad actor on the international stage which needs containment, not an olive branch or any good-faith deal which the clerico-fascist mullah regime in Tehran will inevitably breach.

The ugly foreign operations of Iranian intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the notorious Pasdaran, including espionage, terrorism, assassinations, and subversion in Europe, formed the basis of the detailed exposé I published after I left the spy business. That book remains the definitive work on Iran’s secret war, including alliances with jihadist terrorists, waged against the West.

Nevertheless, what the Trump administration is doing now is more dangerous than anything Tehran has done in recent decades to destabilize the Middle East. Although the Trump White House’s aggressive posture toward Iran has been prominent from its first day in office, 18 months ago, the president has recently upped the ante, with results that may prove catastrophic.

It wasn’t enough to trash his predecessor’s Iran Deal (an agreement which I opposed), pulling the United States out of that multilateral agreement. Shredding Barack Obama’s grand bargain with Tehran now is worse than the deal itself, and it means that diplomacy with Iran is off the table, since Tehran has no reason to trust any “deal” Trump proffers.

Read the rest at The Observer …

This Is How Vladimir Putin Manufactures Conflict Between Nations

As Helsinki’s one-on-one presidential summit looms, with foreign policy mavens fearing that Vladimir Putin will run circles around a clueless Donald Trump, it’s time to examine what makes the Kremlin’s Chekist-in-Chief tick. Our president’s troubling statement that Putin and his KGB background are “fine” at least focused attention where it needs to be, on the undeniable fact that a career in the Soviet secret police made the Russian strongman who he is.

The Chekist worldview that forms Putin’s mental furniture is cynical and cunning to a degree that naïve Westerners—and from the Kremlin point of view pretty much all Westerners are naïve and easily exploited—find difficult to believe. Westerners simply shut eyes and ears, since the reality is so unpleasant. The casual manner with which Kremlin spies ruthlessly exploit others for their own ends is not a nice story, given that their methods embrace violence and life-ruining measures as nonchalantly as Westerners order a cup of coffee.

The cornerstone of the Chekist worldview is provocation, what the Russians call provokatsiya. It’s not new, indeed it was honed into a secret weapon in the late Tsarist era, to be perfected under the Bolsheviks. I’ve tried to explain this alien concept to Westerners for years, and it really boils down to a basic, rather nasty concept:

Read the rest at The Observer …

A Divided America Does Not Mean Civil War

Civil war is in the air this steamy summer—at least according to the opinion polls. Many Americans are unhappy to the point of despondency about our political divisions, which have been mounting for years and have reached a crisis point during the presidency of Donald Trump. I’m not talking about mere partisanship, which is perennial in democracies, rather something more extreme—and potentially sinister.

Last week, a Rasmussen poll revealed that a shocking 31 percent of voters responded that “it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years.” This fear is not just relegated to left-wingers who are gravely unhappy with the current White House. While 37 percent of Democrats feared a new civil war was inbound, so did 32 percent of Republicans, per Rasmussen.

In America, talk of another civil war inevitably brings comparison to the last one, the fratricidal maelstrom that raged from 1861 to 1865. That eminently avoidable conflict, which thanks to political paralysis and stupidity wasn’t avoided, took the lives of roughly a million Americans. Since our country’s population then was about 31 million, that would be equivalent to the deaths of more than 10 million Americans today.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Liberal Nazi Hysteria Is Helping Trump Bigly

This was the week that President Donald Trump finally went too far. Our transgressor-in-chief overdid it, as was bound to happen eventually. His hardline on immigration, which did so much to get him elected two years ago, galvanizing voters while horrifying elites, blew up in the president’s face when images went public of migrant children separated from their parents by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The images were heart-wrenching, depicting little kids—many on the run from El Salvador, one of the world’s most violent societies—detained apart from their parents while their refugee claims are adjudicated by ICE. This was part of Trump’s promised “get tough” approach to enforcing our southern border, but separating more than 2,000 children from their parents turned out to be more than many Republicans bargained for.

Images of kids in cages went viral with celerity, egged on by nonstop media coverage. Some of that coverage bordered on the hysterical, and Trump seems to finally pushed too far. But there’s every reason to think that, yet again, the seasoned media-manipulator in the Oval Office manufactured a crisis to distract journalists from things Trump would rather not see on the front pages.

Read the rest at The Observer …

The Murder That Changed Germany

Every so often, a crime occurs that so shocks the public, while perfectly playing to the political zeitgeist, that it radically alters debates—and ultimately politics. For Germans of the baby boom generation, that crime was the murder of Benno Ohnesorg, a student protestor, in West Berlin on June 2, 1967. Ohnesorg was a 26-year-old whose young wife was expecting their first child, and his first demonstration turned out to be his last. For reasons that were never completely clear, a policeman shot Ohnesorg in the head in an unprovoked attack.

The uniformed killer, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was a veteran of Hitler’s army, a stand-in for all the things young West Germans loathed about their parents, and his crime outraged a generation. With “the shot that changed Germany,” as millions remembered it, Ohnesorg became a martyr, inspiring a left-wing protest movement and eventually even terrorism against the West German state. What made this case truly interesting is that it emerged more than four decades later that Kurras, instead of being the fascist he so ardently seemed to be, was in reality a highly prized spy—a mole—for the East German secret police, the notorious Stasi. But that, like so much else, is another story.

Another momentous murder has now come to pass in Germany, one that seems likely to upend German politics just as the Ohnesorg killing did—albeit in a different direction. The victim here is a 14-year-old girl, Susanna Maria Feldman, who is from Mainz, a regional city on the Rhine in the heart of Germany. She disappeared from her home on May 22 and, although her distraught mother filed a missing person’s report the following day, police did not commence any serious search until more than a week later, believing they had just another teenage runaway on their hands. Tipped off by a 13-year-old migrant boy living in an asylum shelter of the kind that dot Germany these days, the police soon had a suspect. Detectives found Susanna’s body on June 6, in a wooded area near railroad tracks on the outskirts of Wiesbaden, a few miles from her home. She had been raped and strangled to death.

Read the rest at The Observer …